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Manchester Valley High fundraiser for electronic sign reaches finish line

The thermometer outside Manchester Valley High School was filled in, recognizing the end of a multi-year fundraising process.
The thermometer outside Manchester Valley High School was filled in, recognizing the end of a multi-year fundraising process. (Courtesy Photo)

Manchester Valley High School is the only school in the county without an electronic sign enabling staff to share announcements with the community. That will soon change.

The Manchester Valley High School Advisory Council, which has been raising money for several years, can now start the bidding process after a donation from a local business family put them over the fundraising finish line.

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The Hill family, Martin KP Hill, Martin P. and Michelle Hill and Jeff and Jennifer Bubczyk with Hill Development Group LLC., made a $25,000 donation to the fund, about half of the total amount needed to make the electronic sign a reality.

Most of the other half came from the annual Hampstead-Manchester Business and Community Expo, a carryover of a tradition started at North Carroll High School before it closed. This year’s expo was halted, like many events, by the coronavirus pandemic, but the group is working to reschedule for the fall, and many businesses have allowed them to keep the deposits.

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Other donations came from individuals, though a nonprofit fund in partnership with the Community Foundation of Carroll County. Though they make up a small percentage of the total raised, the advisory council is grateful for them and the support they represent. Progress was charted with updates to a giant thermometer outside of the school.

Advisory Council member Matt Colender said the Hill family’s donation was generous and a wonderful example to the community.

When many think of the school system, they think, “I pay enough taxes, so its not my problem,” he said. But to him, contributing to the schools is “a civic and community contribution. That’s just going to improve the community, and that will make everyone better for it ... schools are central part of a community,” he said.

The sign will give the school the ability to share news about sporting events, performances, student achievements and emergency alerts with the community.

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“It will really be a big plus for Manchester Valley High School and the community,” said Board of Education Vice President Marsha Herbert. “People can know that we’re proud of our students.”

The total cost of the project is expected to be about $50,000.

The advisory council is made up of students, parents, school, administrators and local business people. For those involved, it goes beyond the fundraising projects and is away to connect the school and business communities of Manchester.

Andrew Boone, a 2017 graduate, became involved with the sign project when he was a junior in high school. Working on the team planning the expo helped him form a network of Manchester business people and some lifelong friends, he said. Today, his business Maryland Print House is based in Manchester. He used his design skills to make a mock-up for what the completed sign will look like.

Guy Garey, chair of the advisory committee, said the group has brought together more experienced business people who can share their advice with younger business owners who are quick with social media or graphic design. Being involved with the planning and running of the business expo has been a way to give current students real-world experience.

Tom Rhoads’ oldest child was a sophomore when he joined the council and now his youngest is a senior. In the schools, there are fundraisers all the time. “To ask for additional funds is not easy,” he said. He thanked area businesses for their contributions, which helped the project reach it’s goal much faster.

Starting out wanting to do something beneficial for the students, he did not expect to make so many connections with others, he said.

“I feel like I’m more apt to shop local because I know these business owners,” he said. “They have a real, true desire to see the kids do well, to see the school do well.”

The sign will be placed at the base of the hill next to Md. 30. There are two possible sites. One will save money, but it is county land and they are working to see if they can get approval.

Colender said they would love to see the sign installed for the start of the 2020-21 school year, but that will depend on the site and the bidding process. The effects of the coronavirus may also slow down the process of getting parts once the bid is awarded to a contractor.

He knows what will happen when it’s completed.

“We’re going to have a big party,” he said. “A celebration as a way to thank the families, and the community and the businesses that made it happen.”

And as for the giant thermometer? Colender said they’ll be looking for a new project to put it to use.

The advisory council’s sign fundraising committee is made up of MVHS Principal Joe Guerra, Todd Calhoun of Matthews Tire & Auto Service; Matt Colender of Edward Jones Investments; Guy Garey of Quality Film and Video; Andrew Boone of Maryland Print House; Connie Michael of MVHS Performing Arts Boosters; parent Tom Rhoads, student representative Allison Rhoads and other students who have worked on the project over the years.

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